Capilano University student organizes first powwow on North Vancouver campus
Dolly Reno is inviting everyone to come to Capilano University next week for its first traditional powwow.
The 21-year-old First Nations liaison for the Capilano Students’ Union is organizing the free, five-hour event, which will take place on Thursday (September 13) at the North Vancouver campus. She’s expecting a few hundred people to attend what she says will be the first powwow to be held at a Metro Vancouver postsecondary institution in many years.
Reno explained to the Georgia Straight that a powwow is a celebration.
“It can be used for various events that are happening,” the film student said today (September 7) by phone. “It could be for anything—marriage, for somebody coming of age. It could be for a welcoming, which is why we are using it this year—a welcome-back for students. It’s an opportunity for First Nations and non-First Nations people to get together, socialize, sing, dance, and honour Native culture.”
An East Vancouver resident of Mi’kmaq and Algonquin ancestry, Reno admitted she hasn’t been getting much sleep in the lead-up to the powwow. According to her, elder Jerry Peters will serve as the powwow’s master of ceremonies and the event will feature lots of traditional drumming, singing, and dancing.
The festivities will kick off at 11 a.m. outside the main entrance of the Birch Building with a pipe ceremony. Elders from the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations will welcome participants to their land. Later on, attendees will be treated to a feast of aboriginal cuisine catered by Theresa Contois of Cedar Feast House Catering.
Reno noted she’s been learning about her own culture as she’s been planning the powwow. Initially, she had considered organizing an event about Native culture with speakers and panels, but she decided it would be better to just bring the culture itself to campus.
“There’s a lot of stereotypes, as there are for many things,” Reno said. “I’m hoping that this will break some of those stereotypes. But also I’m hoping for a bit of bridging of the gap, because there is a bit of a gap. We are in the 21st century, and there’s a lot of this thinking that everything that’s happened in First Nations history is passé, but it’s not. It’s current, and the only way that we’ll recognize that is to also embrace the beautiful things—not only talk about the horrible things that are happening, but also talk and experience the beautiful things that First Nations people can offer.”
The powwow has received support from Reno’s student union as well as the university’s First Nations student services department. Reno foresees it becoming an annual event.
“I hope that everyone comes,” she said.